GPU: The engines of 4K

Graphics processing cards are the engines of the 4K workflow, used to power displays and graphics. “Moving to a GPU-accelerated workflow is really the only way to generate the performance required of 4K,” according to Nvidia's Andrew Page, senior product manager, advanced technology.
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Graphics processing cards are the engines of the 4K workflow, used to power displays and graphics. “Moving to a GPU-accelerated workflow is really the only way to generate the performance required of 4K,” according to Nvidia's Andrew Page, senior product manager, advanced technology.

4K quadruples the amount of processing required for each frame relative to HD. Most artists’ workflows can’t go four times faster just because they want them to. They need to re-think every step from raw processing and colour grading, to editing, to composting, to encoding, even display at the customer’s site. GPUs can give those sorts of performance improvements.

Here's a round up of some the most important GPU-related announcements at IBC2013:

Software vendors integrating Nvidia gear include Blackmagic Design (Resolve), Quantel (Pablo), Assimilate (Scratch), Adobe SpeedGrade; Avid (MC), Adobe (Premiere Pro), and Eyeon (Fusion).

Nvidia's Quadro GPUs can power displays up to 60Hz, at cinema 4K (4096x2160) or Ultra HD (3840x2160). Nor is that the limit, since the Quadro can currently drive some 8K and 16K (4x4K projector) installations.

“We are unaware of any commercial film using a 4K workflow that did not use Nvidia somewhere in the workflow,” claimed Page. “To our knowledge, literally all of them have.”

Nvidia’s biggest rival is probably AMD. “We are nine months ahead of them in technology,” claimed marketing manager, Robert Jamieson. “We delivered more outputs and more video decoders ahead of them and we make chips smaller and cheaper than they do.”

Either HDMI 1.4a or Display Port 1.2 connectors are necessary for 4K transport over just a single cable. AMD's FirePro GPUs support that and there is also a six-output card capable of displaying 8K resolution. “All GPU developers are only limited by the operating system, which sometimes merely scales up the hardware's output, rather than outputting native 4K resolution,” said Jamieson.

AJA has optimised its Kona 3G IO cards for 4K and its top-end $7995 Corvid Ultra supports HFR 4K as used with Quantel’s Pablo Rio.

Bluefish444 has 4K cards using four SDI connections in 12-bit 4:4:4 RGB, and support for Adobe Premiere Pro, allowing editors to preview 4K 60p files. The cards are also used by Scratch for 4K playout.

Bluefish444 cards are under the hood of the new Archimedia Reference Player which, when applied to an HD monitor, can display a video file at the same frame rate as the original.

Archimedia claims this is the first time that an HDMI and SDI monitor can be faithfully compared to 4K resolution on a PC (www.tvbeurope.com/main-content/full/archimedia-plays-its-cards-for-4k).

Matrox has several new cards for broadcast Ultra HD workflows to introduce at IBC. These include the Mojito 4K Quad 3G-SDI card and the DSX LE3 output card, which enables realtime monitoring and output of video footage at 4K resolutions up to 60fps (www.tvbeurope.com/main-content/full/matrox-mixes-mojito-in-4k).

Photos: AMD cards power the Reality Deck, the world's first immersive 1.5 gigapixel-resolution display. Located at the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) at New York's Stony Brook University.

By Adrian Pennington

www.aja.com
www.amd.com
www.archimediatech.com
www.bluefish444.com
www.nvidia.com

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